Before You Decide to Go to Russia, Read This

Wanna go to Russia real quick? Check this out, before you decide to go there.

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1. Neither Moscow nor Saint Petersburg is an “actual Russia”
Yes, Moscow is the capital of Russia, but as it is with every metropolitan, no matter where you go, it’s mostly the same. You can get practically anything and the service is more or less acceptable. Some may even speak an OK-English. If it’s your first time visiting Russia, I suggest you start from Moscow and Petersburg: however, if you want to see the real Russia, you should probably go to different regions (Khabarovsk, Vladivostok in Far East, Tatarstan near Moscow, Cities along the Volga River…) spread across the vastest land of mother Russia. Metropolitans are the same. What intrigues you may be found in small cities. A good idea is to take a tour using the Trans-Siberian railway, which is the longest railway that exists on earth.
2. Russia is diverse
(Surprised? America is not the only diverse country on this planet, HA)
Russia is a multi-ethnic country and consists of more than 100 different ethnic groups. Different people, different culture, and even different language can be seen and heard within Russia. I don’t know why but for some reason, Japanese people tend to think Russians have blond hair and blue eyes. This is not entirely true. There are, indeed, people with that characteristics but there are so many people with black, brown and ash hair and so many people with different eye colors!
3. Expect to have language obstacle
Remember? Russia had closed borders against western countries. Kind of similar to Japan, but Russians are overall conservative and patriotic. They don’t and won’t speak English. If you try to talk to them using body language, 50% of the time you’ll end up being stared at like you’re an imbecile. Yeah, I know, Russians can be very chilly. So go ahead and try speaking to them in their native language: Russian.
4. Russians tend to…
Separate outsiders from friends and draw a very thick line between friends and newcomers. This is a distinctive factor from the Americans who are really kind, chatty and friendly on the first encounter. If Russians acknowledge you as their friend, they will be very friendly and welcoming. It takes time to get to that point.
5. LGBT community, beware
Being gay is illegal in Russia. Please be careful when traveling. I heard a lot of things about gay people being publicly discriminated against, being harassed, yelled at. You might get called names or, in the worst case, attacked. Don’t rely on Russian police. That’s the last thing you want to do next to visiting Russia as a gay person.
6. If an emergency: go to your country’s embassy or consulate, not local police
A lot has been told about Russian police, but depending on where you are, they are not nice at all, especially if you are a tourist. If anything happens, go directly to your embassy or consulate. Russia is not yet a totally safe country and depending on the time and place, you can get into a very bad trouble. I, myself, saw a man with a bloody forehead sitting in an airport waiting area, with an embassy staff, waiting for boarding. At that time, he had been attacked by a local gang and all his belongings were robbed in broad daylight. Medical care and hospitals are not as good as in developed countries in the rural area. Be careful of injuries and sicknesses.
7. Places to avoid: Chechen Republic, Dagestan, Northern Ossetia, around Georgia. Also, there have been some terrorist attacks in major shopping malls and theaters in Moscow and Petersburg. Always be careful and read the section on being vigilant when abroad here in this article.
8. Service/Price/Other info
Taxi drivers and sellers at markets will try to rip you off. Service is ok at high-class restaurants and hotels, but not as good in the usual stores and boutiques. No convenience store like in Japan and most of the stores close at 9. (Although may not apply to Moscow and major cities) Be careful when buying raw food, my relative got poisoned from a watermelon and ended up being hospitalized. Vegetables and fruits sold in the fresh markets used to be in such a rotten quality they tasted like SHIT (literally) and weren’t edible at all. (I’m not kidding, I wondered how could you fuck up growing cucumbers) I don’t know how much the quality has improved in the past few years, but don’t risk. Tap water is non-drinkable.
It’s safe in the daytime, but not during evening and night time. If you act normal, you’ll be safe and this actually applies to every foreign trip. If you are in an unfamiliar place, don’t risk. Interestingly Moscow has a relatively higher safety rate compared to other cities in Europe.
Russia has developed so fast in the past decade, so did the prices. Generally, the prices are the same as in developed countries. Now that it’s under sanctions, some foreign products may be even more expensive. I’m not going to say you shouldn’t buy anything at all, but I will say that you should consider before you decide to buy something.
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9. All in all, the culture is diverse, and nature is magnificent
So far, I sort of talked bad things about Russia, but the vast lands and beautiful nature are absolutely magnificent. The architecture also very European and French-esque and you’ll be excited to see lots of historical buildings especially if you are in Petersburg. Lots of buildings were built during the USSR era, so if you are into that period, it’s going to be exciting.

Major famous souvenirs and specialties are honey, herbs, brown bread, Kvass (traditional fermented beverage loved by Russians especially during hot, summer season as a refreshment), ceramic goods, alcohol (DUH), and sweets like chocolates and candies. If you are staying in a small town, 3-4 nights are more than enough. The first trip is recommended to be done via tour agencies.
10. Don’t think that it’s always cold in Russia. But it kind of is.
Best seasons are from May to August. After that, it’s a long, harsh winter that shaped all the Russians’ sulky personalities.
Depending on the city, some places go higher than 30C during summer time. One time I even had to wear a sweater in August, that’s how cold it was. Check the average temperature on wiki before you go.
What should I pack? Check the article on packing here
First time traveling abroad? Check the necessary info here

Приятного полета, Millennials.

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